CASTLE DALE — An Emery County commissioner still plans to run for re-election after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges of wrongful appropriation earlier this month.

The Utah Attorney General's Office initially charged Emery County Commission Chairman Drew C. Sitterud with three third-degree felony counts of misusing public monies. But Sitterud said he agreed to plead to lesser charges to avoid a lengthy court battle that would detract from his upcoming re-election bid.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 30 on the two class A misdemeanor charges in 7th District Court. State prosecutors will recommend Sitterud pay a $3,600 fine and serve no jail time, according to the commissioner's attorney, Sonny Olsen.

Though he's taken a plea deal, the commissioner maintains his innocence.

"I never stole any money and never committed a theft of any kind," Sitterud wrote in a letter to Emery County residents.

Regardless of his explanation, prosecutors said Sitterud's plea means he has taken accountability for his actions.

"We are satisfied that the defendant has accepted responsibility for his crimes, and that justice has been served in this case," Patrick Nolan, assistant attorney general, said in a statement.

Charges filed against Sitterud in June 2008 stem from the commissioner being reimbursed mileage when he attended county-related meetings between November 2005 and May 2006. Prosecutors said he submitted travel forms indicating he drove his own vehicle to those meetings, but he actually drove an Emery County car. Sitterud received more than $1,000 in reimbursements.

Sitterud said the reimbursement forms he received at those meetings were already filled out and he signed them without reading the information on the back concerning mileage reimbursement.

When he started receiving reimbursement checks, Sitterud said he didn't know whom to return them to because Emery County does not have a policy for reimbursing mileage.

Olsen said Sitterud returned the money in September 2006.

Emery County Commissioner Jeff Horrocks declined to comment on the plea agreement, other than to say Sitterud has been reinstated. Commissioner Gary Kofford did not return a request for comment.

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